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Trotter working to regain old form

Linebacker has a role model in the secondary.

The Eagles' Jeremiah Trotter knows that a growing number of people believe his best days are behind him.
The Eagles' Jeremiah Trotter knows that a growing number of people believe his best days are behind him.Read more

Jeremiah Trotter already knows how he wants the story of his 2007 season to unfold, and he's not afraid to admit that he intends to plagiarize the work of a teammate.

He wants to duplicate Brian Dawkins' experience.

"People were saying he was done two years ago," Trotter said earlier this week. "And last year, B. Dawk came back like a wild animal. To me, he should have been in the top two or three vote- getters for defensive player of the year. Even when we were struggling on defense, he was the one guy that played week in and week out. That's an example of how you can turn it around."

The Eagles middle linebacker realizes that there's a growing population out there that believes his best days are behind him and that 2006 signaled the beginning of the end of an NFL career that has already spanned eight seasons, half of which landed him a spot in the Pro Bowl.

"I had a bad year for me," Trotter said. "It was an average year. It was great at times, but by the end of the season, I got worn down a little bit. The Eagles' fans and the organization were used to seeing me play at a high level, so when you don't have a great year, there are going to be questions. The knee issue comes up and people start talking about your age.

"I'm still young. I'm only 30 years old. I'm not worried about my knees. I'm excited about this year and I feel great."

The next three days should be interesting because the post-draft minicamp, which begins today at the NovaCare Complex, always offers the first glance at how the coaching staff plans to use its players for the coming season. Everything, of course, is subject to change once the pads go on in tra,ining camp and the preseason games take place, but this is where the initial plan is hatched.

Trotter will be lining up at middle linebacker this morning when the No. 1 defense takes the field. But he realizes he won't be on the field as much this season as he was last year, and he's fine with that.

"I think the goal is to have me average 2½ downs," Trotter said. "I'll be out there on first down and second down and sometimes on third down, depending on the situation. I'm sure any opportunity they can get to give me a rest, they're going to want to do that. I'm thankful that they want to take care of my well-being."

A year ago, Trotter was on the field almost all the time. The plan was to use Shawn Barber in the middle on passing downs, but the veteran linebacker missed three games and had to leave a few others because of various injuries. Omar Gaither, who finished the year as the starting weakside linebacker, figures to be the middle linebacker on passing downs this season.

Trotter thinks he also wore down because the Eagles had such a difficult time stopping the run. They finished 26th in the NFL, allowing 136.4 yards per game.

"The more teams run the ball, the more pounding you're going to take," Trotter said. "I'm not getting any younger, but when you don't stop the run the way you're supposed to, teams are going to keep running it. I don't think I was the only player that got worn down last year. I think other defensive linemen and linebackers got worn down, too."

The Eagles believe help has arrived in the form of Takeo Spikes, a two-time Pro Bowler acquired in a trade with the Buffalo Bills.

"Oh, man, I was excited to get a player of his caliber," Trotter said. "I think teams felt like they had to put a body on me when they wanted to run the ball, and that's what happens when you play at a certain level. When you add a guy like Takeo Spikes, that's another guy who makes plays, and he's going to help me a lot."

Trotter also has tried to help himself this off-season by changing his workout schedule. Immediately after last season, there was speculation that Trotter had arrived at training camp overweight and out of shape.

"I rested a lot" after the 2005 season, Trotter said. "I was the only one on the team that went to the Pro Bowl, and then I had [knee] surgery right after the season, so my off-season was a lot shorter. My mind-set was to rest my body.

"What I learned from that situation is that there are other ways to rest your body. This year, I started working out a lot sooner. Three days after the season was over, I started working out with light weights and high reps. My weight wasn't as much a problem last year as my muscle mass being down. I wasn't as strong as normal, and I've always taken pride in my strength. This year, my muscle mass is back to where it usually is."

Now, Trotter and the Eagles are hoping the linebacker's elite level of play returns, too.

"I still believe with every bone in my body that my best years are ahead of me," Trotter said. "And this year, everybody is going to see that."

Watch video

of the Eagles' minicamp at http://go.philly.